Startup Stats

The Big 5 African Start-up Ecosystems

A ranking, published by in February 2022, listed the big five African start-up ecosystems as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Morocco. It was based on the estimated number of start-ups in selected African countries in 2020. However, the positions switched around for the best country for start-ups in Africa in 2021, according to data provided by StartUpBlink. South Africa led the pack, followed by Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Egypt. In addition, the perceived big five African start-up ecosystems had changed; Ghana and Morocco appeared to have been out while Rwanda and Egypt were included this time around.

It is also interesting to note that StartupBlink’s 2019 Global Start-up Ecosystem Rankings Report listed the following as Africa’s best start-up cities – Lagos, Nairobi, Cape Town, Cairo and Tunis. Yet another shift in positions of cities (countries), though three have remained constant despite it all – South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Then in the StartupBlink Ecosystem Index Report 2021, it released its own top five African countries with the most developed start-up ecosystems, pitching South Africa ahead of Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Egypt; and almost replicating the order seen two years ago.

There’s even mention of the big four, reflecting the combined percentage of funding the countries’ start-ups attracted last year.

It would seem that African countries are in an unspoken and unconscious (could be deliberate too) rivalry with one another, jostling for strategic spots in the top five or top ten lists. As long as the competition is healthy and advantageous to the economies and the continent, then it is heartily encouraged.

Though, it is worth noting that the change in countries and/or cities are at odds with anyone familiar with the term the big five as it pertains to Africa. It describes the five most dangerous animals to encounter in the bush while hunting on foot – leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros. So far, these are yet to be usurped by other animals.

Back to the big five African start-up ecosystems:

5. Rwanda brings up the rear. The East African country and its capital city, Kigali, rank second in the region of the continent. It is ideal for fintech, e-commerce, retail and transportation start-ups. Kigali has been judged as one of the safest and neatest cities in Africa. Notable start-ups include Jibu, Ampersand Electric Motorcycles, and Off Grid Box.

4. Egypt has been said to have appeared on the African start-up horizon out of nowhere as a country to watch. It enters the market with two of its cities in the first and second position in northern Africa – Cairo and Alexandria. The country itself takes the top position in the region with notable start-ups such as Fawry, MNT-Halan, and Swvl.

3. Nigeria’s most boisterous city and former capital, Lagos, has replaced Nairobi in the top position of best start-up cities in Africa. Other cities keeping the country in the continent’s start-up contention are Ibadan, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Benin and Kano. Nigeria also houses five of Africa’s unicorns – Flutterwave, OPay, Andela, Interswitch and Jumia.

2. Kenya may no longer be home to Africa’s best start-up city, but it still boasts impressive rankings. The East African country retains the first position in the region and second in Africa. Two of its cities – Nairobi and Mombasa – also occupy first and second spots. Some of its top start-ups include Tala, Glovo and M-Kopa.

1. South Africa leads this list as number one in Africa, and the first African country to achieve the global top 50 since rankings began five years ago. Cape Town seats at the number three spot in Africa’s best start-up cities while Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban contribute to the success of the southern African nation. Top start-ups in tabletop mountain country are Aspen Pharmacare, Steinhoff International, Yoco, Finclusion and Naked Insurance.

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